Design Services

Nick's Journey: From Side Gig to Thriving UX Design Business

Nick's journey from sharing experiences at a failed startup to building a thriving business highlights persistence, market understanding, and community engagement

It all started with a side gig writing about his experiences as a designer at a startup that ultimately failed.

"I worked at a startup once as their first employee. Sadly, they ran out of money. I wrote about the experience of being a designer at a startup on Medium. That was my first ever piece of content," Nick said.

Little did he know that this simple act of sharing his story would plant the seeds for his own entrepreneurial voyage.

From Grind to Design Mentor

"Other designers started commenting and asking me for advice in my DMs. That started my journey of creating a design community, info products, and mentoring," Nick said.

The early days were a grind, with months going by before seeing any revenue. "It took months before first making a bit of money. Trying something and not knowing the return was something I struggled with a lot," Nick admitted.

But a key turning point came when he transitioned from a full-time job to part-time, allowing him to invest more energy into his fledgling business. "Now, that's much better. I try out things quickly and if it shows promise, I keep working on it. Another struggle was time. It helped to go from full-time to part-time at my day job," Nick explained.

Having worked in the design field himself, he had an intimate understanding of his target market's pain points.

"My day job and side business are in the same market. Because of that, I already had the 'validation' of my audience," said Nick. Confident that his "real UX" approach would resonate, he still had to overcome the industry's fixation on surface-level aesthetics.

As Nick put it, "There's a big image problem for designers. Most of them focus on shiny landing pages, gradients, and Figma. Because of that, customers expect the same. I focus on 'real UX'. Selling that to customers requires a lot of explaining what it is and how it is more than just making pretty pictures."

From Doubt to Thriving Business

Doubt was a constant companion, with frequent moments questioning if progress was happening quickly enough.

"Oh I have doubts every day. Some weeks it feels like things aren't going quick enough. I keep track of what I do and what I make so I can see that my doubts don't mean anything," Nick admitted.

But diligent record-keeping of his activities and income provided tangible evidence that self-doubt was merely noise. As his reputation grew through consistently engaging with his online community, the revenue streams steadily flowed. "I'm talking to people all the time making online friends. At some point, you build a name for yourself because of it. I don't do cold outreach," said Nick.

A pivotal shift from B2C to B2B opened up new growth avenues with higher revenue potential. "Changing from B2C to B2B helped a lot. There's much more money to be made there," Nick stated. And while friends and family initially dismissed his endeavour, consistently outlearning his previous job salaries spoke volumes.

As Nick said, "Family members and friends do not take my side business seriously. 'It is just an internet hobby'. The only way to tackle this is to show the opposite. That internet hobby is currently beating my highest ever day job salary."

For aspiring founders, Nick's advice is simple: "Try a lot of little things until you find something that sticks. And talk to your customers aaaall the time." Seeking out private mentorship channels has also been invaluable for continuous learning and growth. "I follow a select few people on a private list on Twitter where I learn a ton. Very important," shared Nick.

From documenting his experiences to building a multi-faceted business, Nick's founder's journey exemplifies the power of relentless experimentation, deep market understanding, and staying robustly engaged with one's community.

What began as a side hustle has blossomed into a thriving enterprise.

You can follow Nick on Twitter at @toolboxofdesign.

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